Need to find your first customers? Here's more than dozen tips on how to get them.
By Masha Kubyshina (COO & Co-founder, Wine Methods)
How to get the first customers for startups is one of the most challenging and captivating topics. Having worked in marketing and in startups both in USA and Europe I want to share a few tips that have helped us to grow our customer database from zero to thousands.
Use your homepage to invite your customers to communicate with you. If a customer contacts you through a form or mailing list signup, treat it as the beginning of a relationship. Do not simply leave it there; email the customer back and ask relevant questions. One or two questions are enough. Make the email short and personal. The email that proved to work well for us says, “We have just released our website and you are one of the first subscribers. Was there a particular reason you wanted to get notified when Wine Methods App is ready? Did you imagine using it in a specific situation?” In my experience, one third of customers respond back. I believe this is the best way to know our users and to build a relationship with our early adopters.
Ask for Feedback
Ask your friends and colleagues to give you feedback about your product or service. Offer them a free sample, ask them how they used it and listen to what they say. If you live in the same town invite them for coffee and ask for their thoughts on your business. Communication and co-creation will make them excited about being part of your venture. They will want to help you to spread the word.
Create a meetup group where you can talk about your business and help others. Do not do it looking for a profit, do it to enrich the ecosystem, to communicate and to have fun. This will create a great network of people who will know about your startup. You can also join existing meetups that fall in line with your product.
Connect Through Connections
Talk to your connections. Ask them if they know somebody for whom your product can be of service. Your first customers will come through this channel. Always follow up on leads and thank those who helped you to get them. It is very basic, but I found that the majority of the startup owners simply do not follow up on their leads.
Reach Out to Editors
When you read an article or post in media about your competitor, contact the editor and let them know your company exists. Next time they write about the topic they might want to mention you.
Give Your Time
Participate in events where you can mentor, talk, help or contribute. You will not be talking about your product, but you will have a chance to present yourself and you never know who you can meet. Focus on building a network, not on merely closing a sale.
Go to Trade Shows
Go to fairs and trade shows related to what you do. Be open and courageous. Talk to possible customers, clients and partners and tell them about your business. Do not shy away. If you believe in the value you bring to the market, tell others about it.
Leverage Social Media
Use social media, especially Facebook, to contact businesses you want to work with. Be the first one to offer something. Make your messages short and mention the value of your proposition. Leave your contact information in the message.
Write guest posts on relevant blogs or where your customers might be. Offer an advice or uncover some insider tips in the area of your domain knowledge. [Editor's note: that includes here on Women 2.0! Email email@example.com.]
Don't Skip Video
Create short YouTube videos with some value content. For example, if your business is about making coffee cups, tell about the specifics of the trade. YouTube videos are one of the best ways to reach your customers.
Sign up for Coursera courses. You will learn a lot, and you will also meet a lot of new open-minded people from all over the world. In some of the business classes you might be asked to post your own startup for business analysis. Do it! I got our first 50 newsletter subscribers for our latest startup this way.
Reach Out to Bloggers
Contact bloggers who are already talking about products like yours. Offer them something of value, whether it is your expertise in the field, a product for review, a contest for their readers or some information they may find exciting and fresh.
Go to workshops and meetups where you can pitch. Do it not for the sake of raising money or getting feedback, but mainly for the sake of getting more people to know what you do. If you are passionate about your business others will get interested in it too. Of course there is the luck factor involved. Yes, it is about meeting the right people who may later impact your growth. However, if you do not go out and put a face to your service you will not have a chance to meet such people.
Run a Contest
If you go for the online ads, try to include contests or sweepstakes in those. Do not do a product announcement or a sales offer. Give your viewers a chance to win something of value in exchange for signing up to your newsletter. In retail this proved to be a powerful tool.
Write your own blog. Do it with diligence. Write about things that interest you, related or unrelated to your business. Do not write for the sake of writing. Write to impact others, to change their behavior, to encourage them to do something new. If you are genuine and honest in your writing, people will follow you.
If you have any questions or want more information on any of the customer acquisition tips mentioned in this post, feel free to comment below.
About the guest blogger: Masha Kubyshina (@MashaKubyshina) is the COO and co-founder of Wine Methods, which offers spectral analysis of wines and objective wine recommendations. Apart from running Wine Methods, Masha mentors startups at ESADE events and at SWBarcelona. She is also an organizer of a meetup group for Barcelona startup CEOs and founders.